At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.

A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.

Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.

The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."

One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”

By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Gibson Es-335 12 String 1966 Needs Humbucking Pickups Parts Ez Project Rickenbacker Usa 360/12 Fireglo - Case Included - Excellent!Fender Japan Twelve 12 String Strat Stratocaster With Hard Case!!!!Vintage 1964 Gibson B-25-12 Jammin' 12-string, Lg-2 Body, Big Sound! Ohsc!Vintage 1970's Harmony 12 String Acoustic Guitar ~ Solid ~ Parts / RestorationGuild Gad-g212 Acoustic 12 String Guitar In Tea Burst Gloss Finish W / CaseNew Candy Apple Red Sg Style Double Neck 12 & 6 String Electric Guitar And CaseVintage Martin Sigma Dm12 12 String 70s? Made In Japan Acoustic Guitar ProjectNice Custom Made 12 String Electric Guitar With Bigsby TremGibson B25-12 String - Good Condition - Kalamazoo Plant 1965 Or 1968 Benson Custom Hand Wound Esquire 12k Bridge Pickup Alnico 5 ,telecasterSg Style Classic Double 6 String-12 String Neck Electric Solid Guitar Kit New Solid 12 String Strat Style Natural Electric Guitar Larrivee D-03-12 Acoustic GuitarEpiphone G-1275 Double Neck Guitar 6 & 12 String W/hard CaseOvation Celebrity Cc Acoustic/electric 12 String Guitar Ibanez Pf512-nt 12-string Acoustic Guitar (lot 14293)Vintage Black Locking 6/12 Double Neck Electric Guitar Travel Hard Case & KeysGator Gwe-dread-12 Hard Travel Guitar Case For Acoustic GuitarRickenbacker 300 360/12 Electric GuitarGoodsell 2/7 Triode/pentode- Se Class A 12" Spkr - Factory Spring Reverb Great Playing New Custom Made 12 String Tele Style Electric GuitarCool Alvarez Rd-12ce Acoustic/electric Guitar, Vg'dcond. Hsc, Made In Usa!Takamine 1993 Ef 381c Acoustic Electric 12 String GuitarTakamine G Jumbo Eg523sc-12 Acoustic/electric Guitar (only Used In Studio)Caline 10 Ch Lsolated Output 9v 12v 18v Guitar Effect Power Supply Box AdapterGuild 12-string Dreadnought-size Hardshell Guitar Case Repaired Inner Section24"x12" Custom Pedalboard Guitar Bass Pedal Board Power Supply Ready Raw BirchVery Rare Yamaha Fg-612s 12 String Guitar With HardcaseChrome Gibson Tunamatic Bridge Es-335 12 String Firebird Xii 1966Benson Custom Hand Wound 12k Alnico 2 Strat Bridge Pickup ....p-90 TonesNew Caline Cp-05 10 Isolated Output 9v 12v 18v Guitar Effect Power SupplyFender 12 String Acoustic GuitarIbanez Artcore Ag75-bs-12-10 Hallow Body Guitar With Case!Vintage Ensenada 12 - String Gt83g Accoustic Guitar Project / RepairTaylor Molded Guitar Case For 12 Series, 812, 612, 712, 912Takamine Gj72ce 12 String New Natural Double Body Neck Sg Style 12 & 6 String Electric Guitar And CaseDanelectro Chili Dog Octave Guitar Effect PedalKent 12 String Guitar Converted To 6 StringMartin 12 String D12x1ae GuitarMartin 12 String Custom X SeriesTimon Klein 12 Channel True Bypass Looper Tap TempoIbanez Pcbe12mhopn Acoustic-electric Bass Guitar Mahogany- Open Pore FinishTruetone 1-spot Pro Cs12 Multi-voltage Pedalboard Power SupplyRickenbacker 370/12rm Roger Mcguinn Limited Edition Guitar 3 Pick-upsGibson B25-12 GuitarSierra North / Star 12, String Guitar1 Pcs Real Bone Slotted Nuts For 12-string Acoustic Guitar Parts12 String Ash Body Style - Diy Unfinished Project Luthier Electric Guitar Kit!

Recent News: 12 String Guitars

Source: Google News

Roger Hodgson, on life after Supertramp
Ottawa Citizen, December 1st

He found too that a 12-string guitar and a Wurlitzer electric piano were instruments that inspired songs. The first time he touched the Wurlitzer, out popped Dreamer, he says. And then just at the height of the band's success, Hodgson checked out. “It...Read more

Jimmy Page Before Led Zeppelin: 20 Great Sixties Session Songs, November 29th

with Dave Davies offering up a solo in the middle that brings to mind the best of Scotty Moore and Luther Perkins. Page, meanwhile, was enlisted to provide a 12-string guitar part that helps fill out the track and adds a distinctive rawness to the...Read more

Strings Attached
Northwest Georgia News, November 29th

Kelley Lane is a luthier. He makes and repairs string instruments out of his west Rome workshop and learned the art from a master. But Lane's passion is in making replicas of some of the most expensive and highly sought-after guitars in the world...Read more

National Sardines Day-KALW Almanac-11/24/2015
KALW, November 24th

“Photograph” was co-written by George Harrison, who also contributed backing vocals and a 12-string guitar solo to the track. Harrison had been the first solo Beatle to top the pop charts back in December 1970 with “My Sweet Lord,” followed shortly...Read more

How Elvis Costello Created 'Red Shoes'
Wall Street Journal, November 17th

Guitarist John McFee opened the record with a figure that almost sounded like a 12-string guitar, which was good, since we didn't own one between us. I was playing rhythm guitar, but in truth I didn't know what I was playing, really. Soon after “My Aim...Read more

How to Sound Like a Bluegrass Mandolin Player — Video
Guitar World Magazine, October 7th

The mandolin, the violin's sister instrument and fretted equivalent, uses this same tuning, except it has four pairs of closely spaced strings, known as courses, with each course tuned in unison, just like a 12-string guitar's B and high E strings. I...Read more

'Legends of Hawaiian 12-String Guitar' at the Aratani
The Rafu Shimpo, September 30th

The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center presents “Legends of Hawaiian 12-String Guitar,” a special evening featuring founding member of the legendary M?kaha Sons, Jerome Koko, and Grammy winners George Kahumoku Jr. and Daniel ...Read more

12-String Setup Secrets
Premier Guitar, February 9th

A handful of musicians have built their careers around the 12-string guitar—Lead Belly, Leo Kottke, and Roger McGuinn come to mind—but for most guitarists, an electric or acoustic 12-string is a specialty instrument to be hauled out when a song needs...Read more